This chapter focuses on contingent elections. If the presidential and vice presidential candidates fail to receive a simple majority of electoral college votes, the Twelfth Amendment provides that the House of Representatives chooses the president and the Senate chooses the vice president in a process known as “contingent” election (contingent upon the absence of a majority in the electoral college). There have been two contingent elections for president in U.S. history, following the elections of 1800 and 1824. Very minor shifts of popular votes in the nation, however, would have sent a number of other elections to the Congress for a decision. In the House, where each state must vote as a unit, a majority of 26 or more votes is required to elect a president; in the Senate, a majority of 51 or more votes is required to elect a vice president. Although a superficial reading of these rules suggests the operation of majority rule, the chapter maintains that this process actually represents the most egregious violation of democratic principles in the American political system.
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